Football: Age limit may change

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The Independent Online
FOOTBALL COULD be given greater prominence in the Olympic Games following a meeting between Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and Sepp Blatter, president of Fifa, football's world governing body.

Samaranch and Blatter met in Lausanne on Monday with a view to strengthening the bond between the world's two most powerful sporting organisations.

Arrangements for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney have already been made, but a joint statement issued by the two organisations said there may be discussions about the age limit for football players.

While basketball, tennis and cycling now feature their sports' top professionals in the Olympics, the football competition is restricted to under-23 level, with three over-age players allowed. The statement said that this figure could be increased to five.

The dates on the international football calendar and the Olympics were also under scrutiny. The Games often overlap the European football season, further limiting the availability of leading players.

Fifa has traditionally resisted attempts to make the Olympic competition fully professional, concerned that it would undermine the value of the World Cup.

The under-23 framework was introduced in 1992. The previous three Olympics were restricted to players who had not played in the World Cup. Before that it was strictly amateur and was dominated by Eastern European nations.